The end of a season is a bittersweet time for anime fans, as the joy of seeing a series reach its climax is undercut by the knowledge that this is the last hurrah for a story we’ve grown attached to over time. Such is the case with Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World,) a series that had me under its spell from the first episode on. Unpredictable, challenging and artistic are but three ways to describe the experience of watching it. Indeed, it has all the things that critics like me love to see in anime, but more importantly, this isn’t merely a cold essay on human nature, it’s emotive, and ends beautifully, with a trademark mix of the horrifying and hopeful.
A missed opportunity: Jormungand
I really wanted to like Jormungand. It’s a series about illegal arms dealers and child soldiers, which is not exactly typical fare for anime and sounds interesting. Comparisons to 2006’s fantastic Black Lagoon abound, then, but after 3 episodes, I’m giving up.
I realised I had to stop half-way through episode 3, when child soldier Jonah runs straight at a couple of renowned assassins without cover. Both sides fire at each other from point-blank range, yet manage to miss. Seconds later, the same assassins hit some generic snipers perched on the roof of a building. That’s the kind of thing I expect to see in a Bee Train anime; I could even take it in Black Lagoon, but for Jormungand, it was the final straw.
Since writing my first post on the manga series Shingeki no Kyojin (the official English title is apparently Attack on Titan,) it’s been licensed for an English-language release by Kodansha USA, whilst a Japanese live-action movie has also been announced for 2013. With the inevitably small film-budget it’ll receive, I’m not convinced it’ll look good enough , but then again, it still sounds better than the forthcoming Akira film!
Last night I finally caught up to volume 5 of the series and, man, I just want to keep going. For those that haven’t read my first post on it, Shingeki no Kyojin is a large-scale survival-horror manga about a future-Earth dominated by man-eating giants (known in the series as Titans.) With humanity on the brink and walled up in one last city, the series begins as the Titans break through the city’s first line of defence.
Imagine any zombie film you’ve ever seen, and then replace the zombies with giants. Mankind’s fucked, right? It’s lucky then that the main character, Eren, can transform into a Titan, too!
A cloud prairie
I’ve fallen behind on anime recently. I’m not sure if that’s down to a lack of interest in what I’m watching or if I’m just not in the mood for anime at the moment, but I’m feeling quite ambivalent about it all. In Celeste’s latest post, she shares the idea of “sticky anime,” positing that certain anime seem to stick with us in an emotional sense, and that others, well, don’t. They are forgettable.
Forgettable anime is a subjective thing, of course. It’s as much about circumstance and taste as anything else. So, for me to say I’m finding most currently-airing anime to be forgettable isn’t as much a comment on this season’s quality as my own indifference to it all.
I’m enjoying anime like Mawaru Penguindrum, Tiger & Bunny and Steins;Gate, but they aren’t affecting me. I’m watching these series because I’m an anime fan and that’s what I do, I watch anime, but it’s now more of a routine than a deep fascination for the medium.
Hence, I’ve fallen behind.
Watching anime is like connecting the dots of a picture; one leads to another, forever changing the picture’s shape. Some dots are out on their own, but others are connected to everything else, making the overall picture that much clearer in my eyes. One obvious example here is Mobile Suit Gundam, the first real-robot anime, another is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Anime such as these I’m proud to say I’ve seen, because they forever shape my understanding of the medium today. I realise what I’m doing here is advocating watching anime for educational purposes, which might not seem fun (I mean, this stuff is supposed to be fun, right?), but if a series is as revered today as it was in 1980, I find it’s safe to assume that it’s also pretty good.
In October of 2009, I started watching Revolutionary Girl Utena. One year later, almost to the day, I started watching Star Driver. In my mind, these two are connected. Although Star Driver is a much less serious (and, if truth be told, inferior) series to Utena, there are some obvious similarities. By way of the process described above, then, in April of this year, I also started watching 1979’s The Rose of Versailles. Utena led me forwards to Star Driver, but also backwards, to The Rose of Versailles. Such is the journey of an anime fan.
Eaten by giants!!
Apparently, Shingeki no Kyojin can be translated to ‘Advancing Giants’. It’s a new-ish, still on-going manga (began serialisation in 2009) that I started reading at the weekend. In it, humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction by an unstoppable wave of man-eating giants. Where did they come from? Nobody knows! And why do they eat only humans? Again, nobody knows! The giants don’t feed on us for sustinance, they do it because they can!
Mankind somehow survives by sealing itself within a city, surrounded by 50 metre-high walls to keep everything else out. 100 years later, it’s an era of relative peace, but suddenly, this guy appears… More than double the size of any giant ever seen before, he (literally) kicks a hole in the city’s previously impregnable defences and unleashes the horrors outside waiting to get in.
And so, the real story of (the award-winning) Shingeki no Kyojin begins.
Middle-aged men drinking tea
Hyouge Mono, who would’ve known? Koichi Mashimo is regarded about as highly for his directing prowess as Bee Train are for their animation. Which is to say, not very highly at all, so I can’t really blame you for glazing over a late-to-the-party series like this, but as any right thinking English gentlemen will tell you, tea is what our great British Empire was built upon and, well, most of what I knew about Hyouge Mono before it aired was that it somehow involved tea. Colour me curious, then, and lo and behold, word begins to trickle down that Hyouge Mono might actually be worth watching after all.
Firstly what’s important to note is that this is a series produced and broadcast by Japan’s BBC-equivalent NHK, bringing with it a higher profile than Bee Train’s typical fare and, therefore, probably more money for animation. It shows, as this is easily the best animated series I’ve seen from them.
Does Masashi Kishimoto think about how children are depicted in Naruto? Ninja are tools of war, after all, and Konoha trains its children to become ninja; isn’t that wrong? On a base, moral level? Of course, Naruto is intended as entertainment and, as such, there’s a certain amount of distance one feels between it and the real world, but to compare it to another boys-orientated action anime, like One Piece, reveals just how dark a world Kishimoto’s characters are born into, a place where children are trained to fight almost as soon as they can walk.
Sora no Woto: apocalypse moé
I’m not an admirer of the moé aesthetic, so my initial response to Sora no Woto was one of indifference; just more moé, I thought; not interested. That’s always my default reaction to a series like this, but the thing is, life’s not that simple.
Genre is a superficial excuse; no single story is the same as another, and despite my misgivings, Sora no Woto was beginning to look more and more interesting with each passing week. Well, inevitably, last night I caved and watched its first three episodes.
To be honest, I doubt there is much I can say that will convince you to take a look at Armored Trooper Votoms. It’s an old series, with a heavy emphasis on war. Chirico is no Kamina. The characters are gritty and unrefined. When it can be hard to sit through just the 1 episode, 52 feels impossible, so I couldn’t blame anyone for not seeing in this series what I do, because it is most definitely an acquired taste; it’s just that I have acquired it.